Meet our team

actual sunset view from the office!

Ellen Leffler


Ellen completed a BA in Biology at Amherst College and an MPhil in Biological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. She then spent a year studying Mandarin in Lanzhou, China before pursuing a PhD in Human Genetics at the University of Chicago with Molly Przeworski. She worked with Chris Spencer and Dominic Kwiatkowski at the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics at the University of Oxford as a postdoctoral fellow. In February 2020, she began her position at the University of Utah, where she holds a Mario Capecchi endowed chair. Outside the lab, she enjoys spending time with her family and experiencing the varied Utah landscapes.

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Alejandra Herbert Mainero


Alejandra obtained her bachelor’s and MSc degrees in Biology from Universidad Autonoma de Queretaro in Mexico. She then moved to Scotland for a PhD in Evolutionary Biology with Sarah Reece at the University of Edinburgh. Alejandra is interested in understanding the evolution of malaria-causing parasites, and parasitology has been a common research topic throughout her career. To unravel parasites’ intricate lives, she uses interdisciplinary approaches and has used a wide variety of models, such as maternally transmitted gastric nematodes in sea lions and parasites that cause malaria.


Radek Omelianczyk

POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCHER (joint with the Sigala Lab)

Radek completed his BSc at the University of Salzburg in Austria and his MSc at the LMU in Munich, Germany. For his graduate studies, he moved to Singapore where he worked with Peter Preiser at the Nanyang Technological University. He joined the Leffler and Sigala groups at the end of 2022 as a postdoc. He enjoys visiting new places and exploring the unknown in his free time.


Helena Hopson


Helena studied Biomedical Science and Geography at Texas A&M University as an undergraduate before joining the Department of Human Genetics as a graduate student in 2020.  Her research interests include evolutionary processes, host-pathogen interactions, and comparative genomics. In her free time, she likes to enjoy all of the outdoor activities Utah has to offer, play board games, and explore SLC.

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Ph.D. Studen

Paige Haffener


Paige received her BS in Cell and Molecular Biology with a minor in Chemistry from Oklahoma City University. During her time at OCU, she did two and a half years of research in the Mullen lab studying synaptic transmission in C. elegans. In August of 2019, she moved to Utah to pursue a Ph.D. in Genetics. When she is not working in the lab or studying, she likes to spend her time baking, hiking, and skiing.

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Anayansi Ramirez

GSRM Intern

Anayansi completed her bachelor’s degree in Biology with a Minor in Chemistry at Texas Tech University. She is a Bridges to the Baccalaureate alumna, during which she worked with mosquitoes and ticks. At Texas Tech, she studied evolutionary patterns in mice. At Utah, she is participating in the Genomics Summer Research for Minorities (GSRM) program and joined the lab for the summer. For fun, she likes to cook, spend time outdoors and watch the sunset.

Grace Dewyer

NARI Intern

Grace is an undergraduate student at Duke University majoring in Native American studies and minoring in Chemistry. Here at the University of Utah she is participating in the Native American Research Internship (NARI) program for the summer. Outside of the lab, she likes making crafts and weightlifting.

Lab Alumni

Summer Interns:

  • Dariana Rodriguez Purcell – GSRM 2022
  • Lennae Nockideneh – NARI 2022
  • Nereyda Martinez – GSRM 2021